Prof Michael Turner: 'reported'

Health officials have said they cannot rule out the possibility that some pregnant women may have had healthy foetuses aborted after miscarriages were wrongly diagnosed by their hospital.

After a week in which HSE helplines received some 400 calls from concerned women in the wake of the foetal misdiagnosis scandal, a spokeswoman for the HSE said it was not possible to say definitively at this stage whether any women who were misdiagnosed went on to have their pregnancies terminated.

However, she stressed that experts such as the head of the HSE's obstetrics programme, Professor Michael Turner, have said they would expect such incidents to be reported to the hospital by the medical team immediately.

She added that there would be clinical signs to indicate that a healthy foetus had been terminated.

According to the HSE, its review of cases over the past five years is to examine the number of patients who were "recommended drug or surgical treatment when the diagnosis of miscarriage has been made in error, and where subsequent information demonstrated that the pregnancy was viable".

The terms of reference of this review are still being finalised, and it remains unclear whether it will specifically investigate if cases of incorrect termination may have gone unreported.

Critics point out that a number of women, whose cases have come to light since Donabate mother Melissa Redmond went public with her story last week, would have lost their children if they complied with medical advice.

Health minister Mary Harney has ruled out a public inquiry into the scandal.

Redmond was prescribed an abortifacient after a scan at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda in July 2009 showed no foetal heartbeat. Acting on her own instinct that she was still pregnant, she did not take the drugs and sought another scan from her GP. He found the baby was alive and her son Michael was born in March.

Several other women have since come forward, saying their children might not be alive today had they not also insisted on a second scan.